Engadget reports that Apple is now taking iPhone 3G orders online and shipping them direct to customers. The original iPhone could be purchased online and activated using iTunes, although Apple changed this policy with the iPhone 3G, requiring customers to buy direct from an Apple or AT&T store only after signing a 2-year contract. Only new iPhone customers are able to purchase an iPhone at the Apple Online Store. Existing customers will still need to visit an Apple or AT&T store. This move seems consistent with rumors that Apple is trying to move existing stock to prepare for a new iPhone model.
A reader who wishes to remain anonymous has informed us that, as of April 13th, Geniuses are now able to repair broken iPhone screens for $199. While the fee is the same as buying a new 8GB iPhone 3G, it will benefit owners of the 16GB iPhone 3G. Additionally, customers with faulty touch screens not resulting from physical damage will receive a screen replacement at no cost. ifoAppleStore is also reporting that Apple is now replacing water-damaged iPhones for $199. The policy applies to incidents not covered by the iPhone warranty. The thinking here is that the customer will not be required to purchase a new iPhone and renew their AT&T contract. It is possible that the new policy is intended to be a move to clear additional iPhone 3G stock for an iPhone refresh later this year.
Apple has put a major redesign of the interrior of their US Apple Stores into motion, starting with the iPhone and iPod touch display tables. Apple is said to be shifting the focus of their retail locations from hardware to software, focusing instead on the 20,000 applications available in the App Store.
Apple confirmed an anonymous rumor from yesterday by announcing a new buy-at-home option for the iPhone 3G. For the first time, users can now set up their purchase to buy an iPhone 3G by entering their billing information, reviewing their eligibility and pricing, and select their plan from AT&T, all online through Apple's website. Users can then set up a time to go in to an Apple Store to finish the transaction, pick up the device and have an employee set it up.
With all of the pent-up demand for the iPhone 3G, Apple is making some changes to help accommodate the huge increase in traffic. All Apple Stores are now permanently adopting their iPhone 3G launch hours, opening at 8am Monday through Saturday specifically to cater to people waiting for iPhone 3G's. Word is going around that they're also letting people reserve a phone to pick one up later that day when it's more convenient, in an attempt to spread traffic out more evenly during the day.
The iPhone continues to be in short supply in the United States. As of 10 days after it's launch, the iPhone 3G is now completely sold out in all but 3 locations in the States. Currently the only places that have iPhone 3G's are California, New York, and New Hampshire.
People still looking to get their hands on an iPhone 3G might have a long wait ahead. Analysts with Piper Jaffray & Co. are predicting that Apple's widespread supply shortages of iPhone 3Gs will probably continue for the next two to four weeks.
With iPhones in as high a demand as ever, it's not surprising that AT&T and Apple stores in the US are in extremely short supply of iPhone 3Gs. As of 6AM Eastern Time today, both 8 and 16GB models are listed as being unavailable in all Apple Stores of 21 States: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.
We just wanted to let everyone dreading the in-store sign up process know that it went extremely well for us. After being ushered into the Apple Store, I was quickly assigned a Product Specialist who asked what iPhone I wanted, grabbed one for me, and started the process. Cool thing is, they don't even need to be at a console. The entire process is performed using their handheld checkout machines. In all, the whole process of getting set up with AT&T took about 7 minutes (you can watch the whole ceremony and process here). Of course, your milage may vary and we're still waiting on iTunes to activate. Let us know how it went for you!
Just as they did last year, Apple has set up a page to check the availability of the iPhone 3G for all of its Apple Sores in the US. The page is updated every night at 9PM, so you'll know your chances of getting an iPhone the next day. It gets better. For those concerned about availability of the various sizes and colors, Apple breaks it down to 8GB, 16GB black, and 16GB white. Check it out at Apple.com.